Chief Hoskin Expands Executive Order on Equality, Creates Task Force to Ensure Freedmen Citizens Have Equal Access to Tribal Programs

Feb 21, 2024

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. has expanded a 2020 Executive Order on Equality and created a task force that will study whether Cherokee citizens of Freedmen descent are provided equal access to tribal programs and services.

Chief Hoskin’s 2020 Executive Order on Equality was created to prohibit discrimination and ensure all Cherokee Nation citizens, including those who face historic and contemporary marginalization and discrimination, are considered equal under tribal law.

The expanded Executive Order on Equality, signed Feb. 16, 2024, creates the Principal Chief’s Task Force on Access to Programs and Services by Cherokee Citizens of Freedmen Descent. The group will study the accessibility of Cherokee Nation programs and services to Cherokee citizens of Freedmen descent, identify gaps in programs and services, and suggest strategies that would address any deficiencies.

“At the Cherokee Nation, we have chosen to speak the truth about our past even when it is difficult to admit it. As we join the country in celebrating Black History Month, this is the time to lean into the subject, and this expanded Executive Order on Equality gives us new opportunities to ensure we put actions behind the words we speak,” Chief Hoskin said. “This executive order makes clear that the order of the day in the Cherokee Nation is equality. We accept nothing less. We will study the participation rates of Cherokee citizens of Freedmen descent in key programs and services, because if they are accessing these services at disproportionately low rates, we need to know it so we can begin to understand it and address it with improvements.”

Chief Hoskin asked Freedmen Community Liaison Melissa Payne to lead the task force and issue a report on its findings ahead of the 2024 Juneteenth commemoration.

“As Chief Hoskin and I have discussed this expanded Executive Order on Equality, one thing we insisted on is ensuring equality for Cherokee citizens of Freedmen descent when it comes to tribal programs and services,” said Deputy Chief Bryan Warner. “As we continue to grow our tribe and bolster our sovereignty, equality is a critical part of how we should be serving Cherokee citizens. I look forward to the task force report later this year.”

Along with Melissa Payne serving as the task force Chair, Secretary of State Shella Bowlin will serve as co-Chair. Other task force members include Deputy Secretary of State Canaan Duncan, Cherokee Nation Registrar Derrick Vann, Cherokee Nation Environmental Protection Commission Member Marilyn Vann, Chief Information Officer Paula Starr, and Director of Self Governance Ashawna Miles.

“I’m honored to chair the task force. We are grateful for the progress we are making towards equality while at the same time there’s still some issues to confront ways in which we may still be falling short,” said Payne.

Along with creating the task force, the expanded Executive Order on Equality redirects Cherokee Nation executive directors to update their plans for engaging with historically excluded or marginalized communities and to ensure equal protection and opportunity.

Chief Hoskin signed the expanded executive order during an event at the Greenwood Cultural Center in Tulsa as part of the tribe’s recognition of Black History Month. During the event, Chief Hoskin also announced the tribe will seek changes to the federal Major Crimes Act to afford Cherokee citizens of Freedmen descent equal rights in the federal justice system.

The Cherokee Nation currently has more than 15,000 citizens of Freedmen descent enrolled.